Lessons from the “Me First” Generation
It may be tempting to dismiss the millennial generation as a bunch of spoiled brats, however we have something important to learn from the millennial mindset. The millennial outlook on life is forcing previous generations to reconsider some serious workplace issues. A key driver in the shift from a Mass Production driven economy to one based on Mass Customization is the millennials approach to life.
Often called the “trophy kids,” parents of these children replaced the old adage that, “Children should be seen, not heard” with “The sun rises and sets on our children’s wants and needs.” As a result, this generation disdains hierarchy and authority.
The millennial generation’s teachers focused on building self-esteem insisting every child gets a gold star regardless of the quality of their work. According to Dr. Nicole Lipkin, author of Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation, this generation lacks resilience and exhibits weak critical thinking skills. Spoiled or not. millennials want their products and services customized to fit their particular wants and needs.
While it is easy to focus on the negatives of this generation, in Business at the Speed of NowI explore three major positive aspects of the millennial generation:
- Strong bias for the healthy integration of work and non-work life
- Deep unwavering commitment to social responsibility
- Low fear of change that enables their creativity and inventiveness
My own belief about millennials is that their positives actually align with beliefs of previous generations with one huge difference: this generation is intolerant of compromise. This impatient generation struggles to understand when something needs to change in their workplace why it is not changed NOW. They have little respect for slow chain-of-command decisions and they are used to instant gratification.
The power in these aspects of generational difference is that they insist that wrongs should be righted as soon as they are discovered. When they see a solution they pressure management to make the change immediately and if they hear, “It will take about six months” it is a completely unacceptable answer.
I share and value the beliefs of this generation, however like many in my baby boomer generation the temptation to compromise is ever present. So, what are the implications of the millennial mindset for how we run our organizations and how we engage our people? I think we need to remember that when something is wrong we should make it right – NOW. If a process is broken or a customer is wronged, our people need to have the skills and authority to solve the problem in real time.
While millennials may come across as self-absorbed and spoiled, it might be worth looking beyond appearances and instead focus on the underlying social good they are calling on us to do.
Innovation NOW is execution NOW!
Business at the Speed of Now will be in bookstores in 23 days! Preorder yours NOW at www.800CEOread.com for the best price available.
Many of today’s pundits have no idea what they are talking about. They philosophize about social media, cloud computing and the Millennial generation through fogged glasses – fog they generate from their own naïve excitement.
Just as many people misinterpret who Steve Jobs was — because they look at the outside and guess about the inside – pundits again and again prove they don’t know what they are talking about.
An excerpt from page 99 of my book:
In late 1999, Steve Berglas, writing in Inc. magazine, offered a scathing observation of Apple’s founder: ‘‘[Steve] Jobs, like virtually all charismatic leaders, also has a well-documented dark side that causes him to mutate from mesmerizing allure to sadistic perfection- ism, often without discernible provocation. Apple’s current board of directors, although they did well to exploit Jobs’s charms . . . must now pull the plug before his arrogant and demeaning interpersonal style undoes all the good he has done.’’
Time, of course, has proven Berglas wrong. Jobs went on to engineer one of the most spectacular corporate turnarounds in modern business history.
Understanding what it takes to run a real business takes experience. While Steve Jobs was, as some called him, the ultimate consumer, he was much more. He was a hardcore business executive well beyond his legendary intolerance for mediocrity. He surrounded himself with great executors. When the iPad was first released it sold a million copies in the first month. You don’t deliver such innovation without thousands of details executed flawlessly in a global supply chain tuned to deliver on time, at cost and with incredible quality.
Steve Jobs infused a NOW culture and never hesitated to give people the freedom to take action within a highly discipline culture where doing it right is just part of the game.
Talk is cheap. Hope is not a strategy; ideas are not innovation. Business is about execution. It’s about building a system of discipline to take ideas and turn them into physical and experiential reality. It’s all about the fundamentals, the routine work of the business. The NOW Management System is about the discipline to execute on great ideas. I have led its installation dozens of times as both an executive and as a consultant and it delivers — as Jobs did — every time.
Experienced business leaders understand execution, but those who observe it miss the point. We live in the NOW and the only viable value proposition in “yes” and the only acceptable timeframe is “now.”
Jobs perfected execution. He was Mr. Now.
Millennials Are Changing the Rules
Millennials now entering or preparing to enter the workforce, 75 million strong, are reshaping expectations as customers and as employees. Millennials grew up multi-tasking, instant messaging, and adapting to rapid change. They expect to work in organizations that engage employees, that redefine themselves continually, and that generate and use real-time data to stay relevant in a world of constant change. Traditional management are incapable of enabling and sustaining this level of agility. (more…)